Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi, was buried in a small ceremony on Sunday, less than 24 hours after his death from cancer was announced, in keeping with Jewish custom.
The service was conducted in line with government Covid guidelines, meaning a maximum of 30 people present. The funeral of a such a high-profile figure in the Jewish community would have attracted hundreds or thousands of mourners in non-pandemic times.
Sacks, who was 72, was the Orthodox chief rabbi for 22 years until 2013, and was made a life peer in 2009. His regular Thought for the Day broadcasts on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and newspaper articles ensured his views on values and society reached far beyond the Jewish community.
He had announced three weeks ago that he was being treated for unspecified cancer, after twice being successfully treated for the disease earlier in his life.
The Prince of Wales was among those to pay tribute, saying Sacks’ “wisdom, scholarship and humanity were without equal”.
Charles said in a statement: “His immense learning spanned the sacred and the secular, and his prophetic voice spoke to our greatest challenges with unfailing insight and boundless compassion. His wise counsel was sought and appreciated by those of all faiths and none, and he will be missed more than words can say.”
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Catholic archbishop of Westminster, expressed sorrow to “the worldwide Jewish community on the loss of this great figure … I have lost a friend, the Jewish community a great leader, humanity an eloquent spokesman.”
The Council of Christians and Jews described Sacks as a “towering religious leader and intellectual”.
It said: “His books, other writings, lectures and media appearances were followed and admired not only by the Jewish community but millions of Christians, and people of all faiths and none … His influence will endure for years to come through the many he inspired, influenced and touched with his warmth and wisdom.”
Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, said the Jewish world was profoundly saddened. Sacks was a “riveting orator and brilliant author who brought the timeless teachings of Jewish scripture to both Jews and non-Jews alike, fusing Jewish tradition with modern thought … He was also a pillar of integrity.”
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